There were points Friday night when Mead could have packed it in and gone home – even if it was technically the visiting team at its own Union Stadium.
The three-game losing streak coming into the regular season finale didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, and the two touchdowns that were called back on penalties and two muffed punts didn’t add any momentum.
Still, after Lewis and Clark kicked a 39-yard field goal with under 3 minutes left to take a 17-14 lead, the Panthers (3-5, 3-4) found an inner spark and pulled out a 21-17 win to slot themselves into the State 3A playoffs as the Greater Spokane League’s No. 2 seed. Mead tied University with four losses and normally would have needed a playoff, but U-Hi’s season is over because of COVID-19 concerns.
“Always bet on yourself. Always bet on yourself,” Mead coach Keith Stamps said.
Quarterback Colby Danielson faced fourth-and-33 to go at his 40-yard line in the final minute. He took the snap, looked to his left and rolled a couple of steps to his right and zipped a pass that found Max Workman at the 10-yard line to put the Panthers in scoring position.
“I saw (Workman) with a little bit of a gap and I just threw the ball as hard as I could,” Danielson said. “He did a great job adjusting to the ball – especially when you consider that he’s just a sophomore.”
Three plays later and with 35.2 seconds left , Danielson found Nolan Braun for the winning touchdown.
“Oh, man,” the quarterback said. “That feels so good. Especially on senior night.”
Mead failed to field a first-quarter punt after its defense pressured Wilson Hash into a hurried kick and LC recovered at the Mead 36.
Four plays later, Charles Northern found Logan Manske in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Mead took the kickoff and marched for the tying touchdown. Danielson made a nifty ball fake in the backfield and raced around the corner on the left side and into the end zone on a 25-yard run.
The Tigers grabbed the lead back in the second quarter when Gentz Hilburn, working at quarterback, slashed around the right side and raced 62 yards for a touchdown. LC took that margin into intermission.
Mead tied the game in the third quarter. On third-and-goal at the 11, Danielson rolled to his right, stopped and threw back to a wide-open Spencer Lyman, an offensive lineman made eligible on the play. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder took a step to get up a little speed and lumbered in for the game-tying touchdown.
A second fumbled punt set up LC for the go-ahead field goal.
“This is a young team and they’ve handled this season remarkably well,” Stamps said. “They dealt with the whole COVID-19 thing last year, they handled the whole coaching change over the summer and they handled that first-game loss to Ferris when we didn’t play very well.
“They have a lot of character.”
The Tigers (3-6, 3-5) will return to Union Stadium at 5 p.m. Tuesday to face Pasco.
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